Canada: Ford Government Launches First Salvo In War On Red Tape

Ambitions High for Cutting Regulation

Premier Doug Ford has declared Ontario "Open for Business." Cutting regulations are a cornerstone of his plan to restore Ontario's competitive position compared with less heavily regulated neighbouring jurisdictions. (According to the Financial Post, Ontario has nearly 400,000 regulations - twice that of the next province.)

Premier Ford launched his first advance on this deregulatory agenda on December 6, 2018, with the introduction of a bill entitled "An Act to Restore Ontario's Competitiveness by Amending and Repealing Certain Regulations." This red tape reduction legislation aims to eliminate barriers to job creation and economic growth through changes affecting things as diverse as labour laws, private childcare rules, agricultural rules and more.

It represents just the tip of the iceberg of what the Ford government hopes will be an ambitious program of removing excessively burdensome red tape.

Aiming to Cut Red Tape by 25%

Premier Ford has publicly declared his intention to achieve a 25% reduction in the regulatory burden that he believes is holding back Ontario's economic potential. This is his goal for the first round of deregulation.

He believes this change is necessary to help Ontario succeed in the competition for jobs and economic activity with other provinces and competing jurisdictions south of the border. Many have attributed the recent economic growth in the United States to President Trump's sweeping deregulatory agenda.

It won't be easy.

Restoring Competitiveness Bill Shows the Way

The new red tape reduction bill illustrates the breadth and range of changes that the Ontario government is willing to embrace. Elements of the bill include:

  • Increased numbers and flexibility for private home-based daycares
  • Allowing four-year-olds to participate in after-school programs, making it easier for parents to return to the workplace
  • Allowing single employer pension plans to merge with pooled pensions
  • Allowing overtime work hours averaging without Ministry approval
  • Removing duplication in Employment Standards Act notification obligations
  • Allowing municipalities to expedite Planning Act approvals for major job projects
  • Requiring industrial land to be assessed on permitted uses (not speculative value)
  • Removing excess reporting requirements for agriculture loan guarantees
  • Streamlined regulation of the dairy industry
  • Reducing regulations to focus on outcomes under the Food Safety and Quality Act
  • Eliminating requirements to renew nutrient management plans on farms every five years, when no change in operations
  • Allowing exemption from auto assembly-line guardrail requirement where other protections are in place (alignment with U.S. regulations)
  • Expanded testing of connected and autonomous vehicles in Ontario
  • Permitting electric motorcycles on controlled highways
  • Expanded permission for low-risk water-takings
  • Deeming broader public sector entities like school boards and hospitals to be "non-construction employers" under the Labour Relations Act
  • Repealing the authority of the Ontario Energy Board to set rates for Unit Sub Metering Providers
  • Permitting credit unions to participate in bank-led loan syndications
  • Simplified rules for boiler operating engineers
  • Streamlined administrative requirements for long-term care facilities
  • Eliminating duplication in provincial regulation of upholstered goods, leaving federal regulation in place
  • Repealing the duplication of the Toxic Reduction Act by relying on Federal Chemicals Management Plan
  • Moving the requirements for sector-specific industrial wastewater regulations into Environmental Compliance Approvals to streamline regulation
  • Reducing administrative burdens under the Private Career Colleges Act
  • Leaving regulation of pawnbrokers exclusively to municipalities, eliminating duplication
  • Harmonization with Federal National Wireless Code
  • Allowing truckers to use electronic documentation for International Registration Plans

It is clear that the Ontario government is willing to contemplate Red Tape reduction and burden reduction measures across the full range of government regulation.

Government Will Need Help to Achieve Red Tape Reduction

Todd Smith, the Minister of Economic Development, has been designated as "the lead minister on reducing red tape and regulatory burden." If the experience of the Harper government on deregulation and regulatory harmonization affecting trade is any example, the Ontario government will find it challenging to meet its 25% goal for short-term red tape reduction. Anecdotes and regulatory horror stories are abundant, but the affected businesses often have difficulty communicating those to government in a way that achieves change.

Premier Ford has recognized this challenge, and is publicly calling for Ontario residents and job creators to submit their suggestions on reducing regulations.

Aird & Berlis is Well-Positioned to Help You Get Results Cutting Red Tape

Aird & Berlis is a leader in administrative law and in achieving changes in government regulation from the local municipal level on up. Our team understands how to frame the arguments and make the case for regulatory change that will help you to grow your business - and in the process create jobs and economic growth for Ontario.

Our team includes experienced former legislators who can find the common ground between your goals and the Ontario government's Open for Business Action Plan. We understand how decision-makers think. Our counsel possess detailed legal expertise across a range of sectors that are heavily affected by regulation.

Let's talk about how we can help you to help the Ontario government deliver on its promise that Ontario is Open for Business.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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